Is Cooking a Skill for the Gifted?

Credit: Thomas Loh Y.B
Some think cooking involves the laying out of chic bites of intricacies or carving up a melon for hours. 

"It sounds too difficult, so let's not start learning cooking altogether."

"I only know how to eat, don't know how to cook."

"I will burn the kitchen down." 

"I am not gifted."

Do we really need to be gifted to learn how to cook a good meal? If that is a mental deterrent that stops you from learning how to cook, it will be as foolish as not learning how to drive a car because drifting a car looks too dangerous to execute.

The only excuse I can accept from Singaporeans is the lack of time. I am fully aware many of us are chained to the wheel of life such that we have too little time left to choose cooking over higher priorities such as our children or our own well being. 

That is a pity.

For despite the availability of great tasting food at low price and the emergence of a seemingly unlimited range of "instant foods", nothing beats cooking your own food. The pace of Singapore life makes it near impossible to calm a mind enough on regular basis to appreciate how empowering it is to cook and enjoy the refinement of your life skill day by day. Certainly not when the stomach is growling, your kids have not taken their baths and you are dead beat from work. That is fine. We have a system that works for Singaporeans. Pop downstairs, buy zi char, feed the family. Cheaper, better, faster and best of all, no mess to clear up.

Only for those who are contemplating emigration, cooking becomes relevant again. Unless of course, you are moving to a country where street food is as affordable as Singapore, if not more affordable. Such as what these Singaporean bloggers did here and here. However if you are moving to a location like Australia, the significance of your ability to cooking changes from a lifestyle indulgent to a survival skill.

Take for example, Agent YY read the blog post [link] published the day before and confessed to me that she would not be able to survive based on a $70k per annum salary in Sydney. She is currently "surviving" on a $90k per annum gross. The key reason she offered was that she never cooks and eat every single meal out. Neither does she drives to work, own a car or have a spouse that drives her to work everyday. Agent YY existence is one who defies what I have been advocating in the blog, that it is of paramount importance to know how to cook and drive a car in Australia. 

However, not everyone has the ability (or fortune) to land a job that pays $90k per annum. I can feed a family of four with my wife as a stay-at-home-mum if I am on such a salary scale. See the difference? So if you believe cooking is a skill of the gifted and refuse to learn cooking, you will be limited only to the jobs that pay you enough to fund your folly. Without a doubt, that reduces your chances to surviving on limited funds while your search for your first job, eliminating lower paying jobs in the process.

Things could be much easier - if you bothered to learn how to cook.

So is cooking that difficult to learn? Not if you have the patience to start from the bottom. That is nothing to be ashamed about. For every time you cook, you are clocking mileage to be faster and better the next time. You improve. Paying $10 to that hawker doesn't. Over the years in Perth, I have observed Singaporean women who never cooked a thing in their life before, gradually sharpening their cooking abilities from scratch. For example, our family friend Grace, who had to learn to fend for herself for the first time after moving out to her own home some 2 years ago. I could remember how she panicked and asked for some tips. Not that I am a good cook myself, far from it in fact but I have no problem fixing up some edible food for the family anytime with limited ingredients. 

The first advice I gave Grace was to focus on learning how to make the simplest meals, at least to get by the early stages. I highly recommend anyone to start out the same way and that is a soup + rice meal. There isn't many cleaner, easier methods that require the least equipment and washing up afterwards than the boiling method. 

Some basic soups is really a matter of washing and cutting up ingredients, dumping them in water and boil. How difficult is it to boil an egg, peel it, smash it up and add onto thinly sliced raw lettuce with your choice compliments such as raisins or nuts before topping off with a sauce to make your very own version of a egg salad? How difficult is it to boil pandan leaves and washed red beans in sugared water for a no-frills desert? All cooking done in a single pot. It can even be done passively in a slow cooker, without you watching the stove. Heck, you don't even need a stove with an electrical slow cooker. And hardly any mess to handle. 

The result is always a nourishing, healthy and low cost meal. Is that a feat that only the gifted can perform? Certainly not. It is for anyone who runs out of excuses not to attempt.


  1. Instructions not clear; burned the cat, and caramelized the ceiling fan. :-?

    1. when are you doing another post for me?

    2. soon bro... some things have happened in my life lately that may have some relevance. I'll write it up and send to you soon (WA Time). (c)

  2. Even now uncle here can survive on $20 per week if he wants to.

    Boring meals, but still can survive with all food nutrient accounted for etc.

    In fact rice is the biggest advantage over non Asians who eat pasta or bread which costs a lot more in terms of carbohydrate per kilo.

    It cost at least 70 to 100% more in Oz than SG to buy rice but still the cheaper option than what others eat. (If you buy that super ultra special royal jasmine rice from Thailand when you live in SG then you may not notice much difference)

    Rule of thumb, if got extra cash ans extra space at home, buy groceries in bulk when on extra value sale

  3. I am not so much into rice as i hv carb indigestion, i would have to say $20 a week for 3 meals is indeed impossible in adelaide. $50 is more probable.

    cooking isnt that hard but for people who needed exact step by step and exactly definition of what is a pinch or what is a dash. it may prove to be very difficult. I have seen many people who doesnt even know how to boil water from kettle and make a cup of milo. even the simplest cook ur maggie mee can end up fire engine coming to the student complex. I am not exaggerating.

    I hv to say i barely have to cook in singapore, not that i cant, just never have the need to altho i am quite a good cook. i even started my blogshop selling food ! :s13: